12/16/2011 - It was 6 P.M. on a Friday in early June, and my children’s dinnertime coincided with the moment the New York City Department of Education posted acceptance letters online for 4-year-olds seeking prekindergarten spots in public school.
I was standing at our dinner table hunched over a laptop as my two children tugged at my T-shirt and swung from my legs trying to pry me away from the computer; they didn’t know that the older one’s early education hung in the balance.
The Web site was painfully slow, jammed with parents simultaneously logging on. After two snack cups worth of Cheerios and four recorded episodes of “Yo Gabba Gabba,” my heart sank. We had not gotten a spot at the school on our block — or at any of the six other schools that my husband and I had listed on our application.
The lack of affordable pre-K means that middle-class children lag behind their more affluent counterparts when they get to kindergarten. More than one quarter of upper-middle-income children entering kindergarten do not know the alphabet, and almost 20 percent of middle-income children do not understand numerical sequence, according to national statistics from the advocacy group Pre-K Now, financed in part by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Research shows tremendous long-term benefits of schooling before kindergarten. Adults in Michigan who had attended pre-K had a 33 percent higher average income than their peers who had not, according to the 2005 update of a long-term study, The HighScope Perry Preschool Study, often cited by pre-K advocates. Despite these findings, only about 30 percent of 4-year-olds in this country are enrolled in prekindergarten.
Read the full article, The Pre-K Underground, on The New York Times' Web site.